What's behind the butch stereotype? That's the most interesting question in Sarah Dreher's "8X10 Glossy," at Celebration Theatre.
Mariko C. Ballentine plays Carter, a lesbian photographer who's tough all over. She was recently wounded while shooting a demonstration, and she has just split up with her lover. Taking R&R in the small Maine town where she grew up, she visits Mom (Victoria Dakil, too young for the role) and argues with her unhappily married sister (Dorothy Fuhrman), who's on the verge of a lesbian affair herself.
Dreher's explanation of Carter's emotional armor isn't surprising. But it is woven skillfully into the play's fabric, finally emerging in full view at just the right moment to create a feeling of catharsis.
The rest of the play has its problems, and they're aggravated by Phyllis Upton's strident direction. Dreher's lines don't always slide off the tongue with ease, especially if the director doesn't maintain a speed limit.
The writing and playing of Carter's pill-popping sister seem especially hurried and hectic. Despite her ultra-feminine (and rather unlikely) outfit, she's a bitter harridan. She would be more engrossing if she initially appeared as a softer counterpoint to Carter; we might also understand, then, why she attracts the new woman in town.
The uncredited set design makes nonsense of the play's frequent references to the apricot harvest. Performances are at 426 N. Hoover St., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 5 p.m. (213-876-4257).
"Mortal Deities," at Company of Angels, resembles a surprisingly candid panel discussion at a medical conference. Between rounds of poker, a group of doctors who work at a teaching hospital discuss their profession's problems, including some of the mistakes they've made in their own cases.
Most of these mistakes are safely set in the past. The only ongoing controversy that personally involves any of them is a dispute between the chief resident and an intensive care doctor over the quality of the latter's work. The two of them spar briefly; then, in the second act, the issue is quickly resolved--though exactly what happens is somewhat unclear.
In short, writer-director (and physician) Richard J. Nierenberg has made only the slightest effort to dramatize the issues that interest him so much. He might begin his rewrites by varying his characters; all of them are white, male, affable, bright and generally conscientious, despite their more cynical moments. In the meantime, thoughtful work by the actors isn't enough to transform "Mortal Deities" from a talk show into a play.
Performances are at Waring and Vine, Fridays through Sundays at 8 p.m. (213-654-6828).
Joseph P. Ritz should send "Copy Desk" through a copy desk--or through several of them, for as long as it takes to whip it into shape.
His idea is promising--the collapse of a metropolitan daily, seen through the eyes of the the late-night copy desk crew. But Ritz's play remains inert until the second act--and even then the drama arises from Ritz's choice of subject rather than his handling of it.
"Newspapers thrive on the unforeseen," says one of his characters. So do plays, yet only one scene in "Copy Desk"--a confrontation between the managing editor and the head of the union--is more than perfunctory. The office romances seem particularly routine.
John Cosgrove's staging at Theatre Rapport isn't much help. Asked to cram seven locations into a small stage, Taki Oyenoki ran out of ideas or money. We're told the staff is short-handed, yet two editors share one tiny desk--where would anyone else sit? We might accept the absence of computer terminals--but no typewriters?
Though the actors are handicapped by the noise of an overhead fan, Jack Rader overcomes the racket as the aging, alcoholic shop foreman who's at the fulcrum of the action.
Performances are at 1277 Wilton Place, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., (213-464-2662).
'WHAT ARE NEIGHBORS FOR?'
Combine an inept sex farce and a blithering self-help tract and you get "What Are Neighbors For?," at the Little Oscar Theatre. The play is notable only for its incredible manhandling of the subject of suicide. Suicide victims are surely spinning in their graves if they've caught wind of this one.
At least there's unintended comic relief. After each performance, the audience is asked to vote on its favorite performer--as if there could be one in this dismal enterprise. I'd rather select my favorite line--"Why does life have to be such an important part of living?"
The writers are Shirley Madis-Sniderman and Yudit Selymes, and Selymes directed. Performances are at 8242 Louise Ave., Northridge, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:30 p.m., through April 26 (818-343-3423).